(I had taken a taxi from Sultanahmet to Yenikapi a distance of 3- 4 kms / 12TL)
Travel time between Istanbul on the straits of the Bosphorous & Canakkale on the left bank of the Dardanelles is roughly 5 hours. However variety being the very spice of life I chose not do the whole hog by road. Instead I took the Yenikapi – Bandirma fast ferry halfway. It originates at Bostanci on the Asia Minor side & takes 2 hours across the Sea of Marmara from Yenikapi to Bandirma port. It is a different experience entirely. Also a somewhat quiet, relaxed way of travel. After an early lunch, the waters of the Marmara softly lull you to sleep. (upper deck – seat no: 0348).The ferry is operated by IDO. A booking to and fro can be made online. It costs 38TL. On the day of travel you simply arrive half an hour before departure, swipe your credit card at the Idomatic machine to get a print out, scan the printed ticket at the turnstile & walk into the waiting area that is nicely equipped with every facility imaginable.
Bandirma is nothing to write home about. However it is from here that one catches the onward bus to Canakkale. A mini bus first takes you to the main Otogar ( 1.50TL) a distance of 3 kms. There are several bus companies operating this route but Truva & Kamil Koc are the best. I took a Truva that covered the 170 km distance in 2.30 hours. It was a comfortable & enjoyable ride. The back of every seat fitted with TV, time/ temperature digitally displayed & drinks & eats served on board. The Turkish countryside is unspoilt & beautiful. We drove past rolling hills, fields of corn & vineyards. Saw grazing sheep & cattle & caught a sneek peek at the Dardanelles every now & then,until it finally hovered into complete view. After the refreshing nap on the ferry the view offered by the bus ride is pleasant & the unfolding pastoral landscape a feast to the eyes.
The bus takes you to the main Otogar after which a shuttle transports you into the heart of town. Its a neat arrangement – calculated to keep the streets uncongested I suppose. You are dropped off near the main fountain square which has the lovely 5 storied clock tower _ one of Canakkales’ prominent sites.
The relaxed & unhurried tenor of the town is a welcome change from the hustle & bustle of Istanbul. Hardly anybody speaks any foreign language here so we get by with ‘ishaara’ – sign language. People are friendly & will go any distance to help especially if asked for directions. A group of young girls, foreign language students eager to practice their English language skills even offered to walk me to the hotel posing for pictures afterwards. We bade each other goodbye promising to remain in touch via Facebook
The promenade along the Dardanelles with the jetty harbor is the throbbing & pulsating heart of town. A walk along the beach front with cool breezes blowing is to be enjoyed any time of the night or day. It is perfectly safe at all hours. Even for single women.There is the replica of the Trojan horse used in the Brad Pitt movie ‘Troy’. It was presented to the city in 2006 & is a major attraction here. Next to the horse is a basket ball court with stone & wooden benches for seating. The dustbins are in the shape & colour of fish & dolphins . Young & old come out to stroll & walk or simply sit around the many cay shops,cafes & fish restaurants. The stringy Turkish ice cream has to be had. An old woman sits among the pigeons – head bowed. She has a scale which you can use for 1TL. There are men selling Mussels, roasted water chestnuts, corn & peanuts coated with a delicious honey – sesame mixture
The cobbled lanes & by lanes crisscross & bustle with activity. It looks like everyone is out holidaying. Canakkale definitely is much much cheaper than Istanbul. Also it has a homely small town feel. For me one of the joys of the town was the pleasure of simply wandering around aimlessly or sometimes sipping endless cups of tea at the many cafes & restaurants strewn about the place. The Vitalis Kultur Café, adjacent to the clock tower deserves special mention particularly for its ambience, cuisine & beauty. It houses a souvenir shop that sells Turkish handicraft & artifacts
And not to forget – Canakkale is your base for the tour to Troy – a mere 30 kms away